Editorial: B – A = C(ompassion)

Two ballot measures in November ask us to dig deep as we search for what our Jewish value of compassion means in a contemporary democratic society.

One, Proposition B, puts additional limits on the size and operating conditions of dog breeding facilities.  The other, Proposition A, would allow for the elimination of earnings taxes in both St. Louis and Kansas City.

Prop B is a humane and worthwhile effort. Prop A, at the present time, is most certainly not.

Missouri has a rather pathetic distinction as a national “leader” in puppy mills and crystal meth labs. Prop B aims at the former by imposing new operating conditions and size limits on breeding facilities, while imposing a misdemeanor penalty for “puppy mill cruelty.”  The supporters cite poor treatment and veterinary care, along with inadequate shelter and living conditions.  


Many organizations that work to combat animal cruelty are in support of Prop B. The Missourians for the Protection of Dogs is a coalition that includes the Humane Society of Missouri, Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Humane Society of the United States. And  you’d have to have been hiding under a rock not to know that Cardinals skipper and longtime animal activist Tony LaRussa has been outspoken in his support as well.

The initiative is receiving opposition from several groups, some of whom are aligned with kennels and breeders, and others who believe that Prop B is at the apex of a slippery slope to further regulate or ban other animal facilities (e.g., meat and poultry processors). But there is no evidence that this proposed law would have any effect on any operations other than large dog breeders with less than full regard for the well being of their animals.

Prop A, on the other hand, could have a deleterious effect on humans if adopted.  The proposed state law would require St. Louis and Kansas City voters to every five years reapprove their city’s earnings tax, or lose it forever. And it would forever ban any other cities from imposing earnings taxes.

Forget about the greater philosophic question of whether local jurisdictions should be barred from enacting their own income measures, and in what form. We don’t even have to get to that issue, because in case anyone has looked recently, St. Louis is in serious budgetary jeopardy. Its basic community support services are at enormous risk right now with the earnings tax in place; without it, the city would come to a crashing halt in the absence of the half-century old one percent tax.

Supporters, comprising anti-tax advocates, some businesses and wealthy individuals, don’t really seem to care. They pose no plan for the welfare of our most at-risk populations; in fact, they have no solutions whatsoever beyond their draconian one that seems more mean spirited than it does civic minded.

Many have spoken up against the funding of St. Louis’ services via an earnings tax. The arguments usually focus on the disadvantage city businesses and residents suffer by virtue of the tax. This argument is not without merit, but to eliminate it without an effective replacement is akin to a asking a responsible adult to provide for his or her family without access to a job. It’s unrealistic and unconscionable, especially with what many of our least advantaged community members have had to face in recent years.

We’re not offering an ultimate opinion on whether the earnings tax is the most progressive and useful method for funding services in St. Louis.  Indeed, if the proponents of Prop A had simply collaborated with city officials to examine mid- and long-term alternatives, we might have trusted their sincerity. Instead, the measure comes across as a punitive effort to strangle the city’s finances, almost as if the end result is to bankrupt it and force an ultimate dissolution of the municipal corporation. Cold stuff, indeed.

We don’t believe that puppy mill operators or anti-tax advocates deserve our compassion nearly as much as do defenseless puppies and those who would certainly be adversely affected, and in a major way, by the elimination of St. Louis’ earnings tax. We therefore support Prop B and oppose Prop A.